Nigerian Govt seeks to punish ECOWAS diplomat who escaped Ebola surveillance

Onyebuchi Chukwu, Nigeria's health minister.

The Nigerian government says it is considering prosecuting a diplomat who sneaked out of an Ebola isolation centre in Lagos, and travelled to Port Harcourt for a private medical attention that claimed the life of the doctor, and now endangers hundreds more.

The diplomat, Olubukun Koye, a staff of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, recovered after the treatment.

But the doctor who treated him, Ikechukwu Enemuo contracted the virus and died; and the Mr. Enemuo’s wife, also a doctor, is currently down with the deadly virus.

On Thursday, a senior health official was quoted by Reuters as saying Nigeria is currently monitoring nearly 400 people for signs of Ebola after they came in contact with Mr. Enemuo.

Dr. Abdulsalami Nasidi, project director at Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, said there was a sense of “hopelessness” due to the lack of proven drugs or vaccines to treat Ebola that has infected 18 people in Africa’s most populous nation, Reuters reported.

The ECOWAS diplomat, Mr. Koye, was one of the primary contacts of the index Ebola case in Nigeria—the Liberian-American man, Patrick Sawyer, who brought the virus to Nigeria.

The Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said Mr. Koye travelled to Port Harcourt after Mr. Sawyer’s death and that the diplomat knew he might have been infected by Mr. Sawyer.

Mr. Chukwu said Mr. Koye is presently in government custody in Lagos.

“He is part of the 18 cases that have been confirmed in Nigeria. He is with us in Lagos, not in isolation because he is not sick anymore but because of his aberrant behaviour. We needed to be sure that there is nothing further that can prove risky to society,” Mr. Chukwu said Wednesday at a press conference.

The minister said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been contacted as the matter involves a diplomat.
He said a punitive response from the government is hampered by Nigeria’s outdated quarantine laws inherited from the colonial days.

The National Assembly is working on updating the law, he added.

“We are looking at three possible areas, one we are asking the ministry of foreign affairs since he is working for a diplomatic mission, to advise us. Secondly, we also need to look at our laws. What our quarantine law provides is too old, it came from the colonial period and I do know that in the National Assembly, there are attempts currently to see how to amend that law and make it to be up-to- date,” he said.

“We are looking at what it provides even in terms of possible prosecution,” the minister added.

He said the government is also considering the Mr. Koye’s state of mind to have decided to imperil others when he knew he was a primary contact of Mr. Sawyer’s.

“We also have the psycho-social team, which is part of the management team for this Ebola virus disease. You know sometimes we assume everyone is normal so we are looking at other aspects,” he said. “Were there any problems with this man because at the time he did it Patrick Sawyer was dead so he knew the dangers and so we need to affirm a decision but he’s still with us” he said.”

In Port Harcourt, Mr. Koye received treatment secretly from the late doctor at a hotel. The hotel workers and staff of Mr. Enemuo’s hospital are amongst those isolated.


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  • uduakomiri

    That man Koye or whatever needs to be tried for murder it is as simple as that. Nigeria is just weak in everything. We ought to have convicted Sawyer even though he is dead. Courts in other countries do it. We should have done a posthumous trial and conviction in an accelerated manner. The judgement will prescribe punishment and seizure of assets. This will send a message to others. In the same manner we ought to have issued court summons to all the Liberian officials who authorized Sawyer’s travel to Nigeria aware he had Ebola.
    In the case of Koye, on conviction, the death sentence should be issued.
    Although of course the death sentence will not be carried out but he will be sent to prison. What this does is it sends a clear message to Nigerian citizens and of course foreigners that this sort of behaviour will never be tolerated by Nigeria.
    Sometimes you cant help wonder whether there is a government in Nigeria in the real sense of the word.

    • To: uduakomiri

      I still don’t understand why Nigerians refuse to call on their MEN OF GOD (e.g., Adeboye) to start laying hands on Ebola patients.

      • Yes you can!

        You can clap for yourself now. We have noticed you and since the men of God are not laying hands on Ebola patients at the moment you can take on the job.

        • Answer the question.

          Why have Nigerians refused to call on their MEN OF GOD (e.g., Adeboye) to start laying hands on Ebola patients?

  • BlackieUmukoro

    At the end the diplomat would go free. Nigeria is an unserious country. If we were serious that diplomat should have been languishing at kirikiri maximum prison

  • Darlington Mudiaga Atumu

    What about holding him on charges for act of terrorism or intend to cause bodily harm or man slaughter… stop giving excuses and do your job.. . If the government does not know the charges to bring up then ask a Jss 1 student and he will provide the answers…it is annoying

    • Braun

      He is a diplomat. Even a JS1 student knows that he cannot be prosecuted. Not even for murder. His home government will be the one to decide what happens to him. Nigeria can at best declare him persona non grata and demand his sack. That’s about it. Unless his country decides to end his diplomatic status. Only then…

      • Darlington Mudiaga Atumu

        Is the diplomat, olubukun Koye not a nigerian; this is the guy that escaped and travelled to Port Harcourt to infect others in PH. ….he should be taken to court….

      • TRUTH MASTER

        He is not a diplomat. He is a local staff of ECOWAS. He can be prosecuted

    • Why won’t Nigerians and West Africans disregard quarantine when those deceitful Pastors (e.g., Adeboye) have taught many in West Africa to simply say: “IT IS WELL. I don’t have Ebola in Jesus name”,
      which causes even medical personnel to disregard quarantine.

  • Ade#

    The man should be charged under the anti- terrorism act.

  • Dr Pat Kolawole Awosan

    President Ebele Jonathan’s clueless,ineptitude,inexperience and incompetency led to this widespread ebola-contageous virus because,if president Jonathan and his health minister have been proactive and more sensitive about the value and safety of human life and did not want to create space for the spread of ebola virus in Nigeria,president Jonathan would have close Nigeria borders and cut air-links with Liberia,Guinea and Sierra Leone shortly after the death of Patrick Sawyer and ensure any discovered ebola virus cases are quarantined.